Monday, June 22, 2009

Happy Father's Day

Sunday around my house used to be known as "Mexican Night".  Virtually every Sunday, Jen and I would lovingly prepare what we considered to be authentic Mexican fare.  There was an excellent Bon Appetit issue in May 2003 that enticed me to delve into "real" Mexican cooking.  This was followed by a brief enchantment with Rick Bayless' books... the end result come Sunday night was spicy, rich, fresh, and often intoxicating.

This tradition has fallen on hard times.  Enter Lucy and Julia.  They are not cooperating with my laborious preparations of authentic Mexican foods.  Lucy just can't seem to p
erfect fresh tortillas and Julia won't stop crying from having her fingers crushed in the press...

This brings me to Father's Day 2009.  I wanted something relatively easy to prepare, but different from the regular hot dogs and burgers, and I wanted some Latin flare, but with Southern Tradition.  Thusly, I concocted an eccentric menu that really hit the spot.  I wouldn't recommend you combine these unless you are in a similar mood, but each was interesting in and of itself.

First of all, ridiculous heat wave in Augusta.  Any grilling would have to have a suitable, refreshing beverage accompaniment.  With the inability to purchase alcohol on Sunday and having no beer and a limited amount of Tequila, I had to get creative.  Jennifer recently bought a few herbs, one of which was lavender.  Scouring through my liquor supply, I found a disgusting bottle of Absolut Raspberry Vodka purchased years ago by mistake.  I rationed that sweet tea infused with lavender and "fortified" with this vodka would hit the spot.  Surprisingly, I was right!  I made about a 1/2 gallon of the stuff and drank 2 tall tumblers which helped me get through/stumble through the day/heat.

The remainder of the menu:
Grilled portabellas, marinated in a sort of mojo sauce, tossed with a fire-roasted salsa of tomato, onion, serrano, and poblano
Jicima with lime and chili flakes
Skirt steak burgers with chimichurri and Mexican crema.

For the burgers, I simply cut the steak into 1 inch cubes, salted, and refrigerated for about an hour.  Afterwards, I pulsed in the food processor until coarsely ground and formed into patties.  Just before dinner, I grilled over high heat for about minutes per side (because I ground myself, I am perfectly happy to have a medium to medium rare burger), plopped on a toasted bun and doused with chimichurri and crema.  BTW...this burger was gooooooooodddd.

Onto dessert.  This is where things get really unusual.  I enjoy making ice cream, and since purchasing Ratio, have been into experimentation.  It never occurred to me that creme anglaise, creme brulee, flan, and ice cream were essentially the same exact thing just cooked in different ways.  Last weekend, I made peach ice cream.  It was gooooooodddd.  This weekend, I decided to try my take on ice cream that I saw in the Lees Brothers Cookbook.  They made a boiled peanut and sorgum syrup ice cream for a low country boil dessert.  This of course doesn't go at all with my theme, but hey, Kroger had some boiled peanuts, and I've been on a cane syrup kick ever since eating the pancakes at Stanley's in NOLA (the ones with ice cream and cane syrup...mmmm....).

My ice cream base recipe for one quart
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
6 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
vanilla extract (about 1 tsp)
pinch of salt
1-2 T of some type of liquor
*Ruhlman's ratio would call for more yolks, but I think 2 per cup liquid is enough, and I'm cooking here!

Because I would be using cane syrup, I decreased the sugar to 1/2 cup.  To make the ice cream, bring 1 cup of the creme and 1 cup of the milk with the sugar to just below a simmer over medium heat (light whisps of steam will begin to rise).  In a separate bowl, combine egg yolks with cold creme and the vanilla.  When the creme/milk/sugar mixture is up to temperature, temper the yolk mixture with about a 1/3 of the liquid and whisk vigorously.  Then, add the remaining mixture.  Return the pot back to the fire and strain the mixture to remove any cooked egg (bad eats in these type desserts).  Cook stirring constantly until the mixture has thickened and coats the back of a spoon (the French call this nappe).  Remove to a stainless steel bowl set over ice to cool and when near room temperature refrigerate to chill completely, preferrably over night.  The next morning (or whenever), churn the cream as directed by your ice cream maker (to this step I added 1/2 cup rinsed and shelled boiled peanuts and if you don't want large ice crystals to form, you can add 1-2 T of whatever liquor you desire), should take about 25 to 30 minutes to become thick and fluffy.  Transfer to a quart container and freeze for atleast 4 hours until solid (Before freezing, I swirled in a quarter cup of chilled cane syrup).

We ate this ice cream last night with our neighbors.  This time Jimmy and the oldest daughter, Mary Margaret, and unbelievable, this was loved by all!  Most liked the peach better, except for Jennifer, who has a penchant for saltiness.

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